Friday, January 01, 2016

A Trusting Heart

The Octave Day of Christmas

By Colleen O’Sullivan
The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.  When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.  All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.  And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.  Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen just as it had been told to them.   (Luke 2:16-20)

The Lord bless you and keep you!
The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!   (Numbers 6:24-26)

I have become a very old woman.  Most of my friends have already departed this life.  Thankfully, though, I still have John, who has always shown me the care and affection of a loving son.  I can’t do much anymore; I get too tired.  Perhaps that is why so many days I spend hours just ruminating on all that has happened over the years.

I shake my head and laugh ruefully when I think of the girl I was the night those shepherds came to share the message of the angels. How they gazed with wonder and adoration at my new little baby Jesus!   

For months, I had had moments when I wondered if maybe I had just imagined the visit from the angel Gabriel.  After all, why would God pick me to bear such a holy child?  But then I would glance down at my swelling belly and be jolted back to reality.  For whatever reason, God had chosen me.  I alternated between fear and joy.  My family couldn’t understand the smiles they would sometimes see on my face.  They were still ashamed of what they thought I had done and how I had dishonored them.  They were relieved that Joseph took me into his home, but I’m sure they wondered if he had lost his senses.

My biggest problem the night the shepherds came, however, was whether or not to believe what they said. They claimed angels had appeared to them, saying my newborn son was the Messiah, the long-expected One.  Those shepherds even called him their Savior as they knelt here in the hay.  I remember wondering how a helpless infant was going to save anyone.

That night I was also concerned with keeping my baby warm and fed and safe.  I shake my head as I look back.  Warm and fed was sometimes a tall order, but safe turned out to be impossible.

As the years went by, I wondered what the angels’ words really meant.  I wondered why Jesus didn’t get married and fill our home with a daughter-in-law and lots of children.  But now I see he was always destined for something else.  I worried when he told me he was leaving home to do his Father’s bidding.  In hindsight, I can see that preaching, teaching, healing and, yes, even dying and rising are what he came into the world to do.

I honestly wanted to die when word came to me that my Jesus had been seized in the garden.  I knew those in power wanted to kill him.  The next day as I stood watching my son die, I had a hard time reconciling the long-ago shepherds’ message with what was happening before my eyes.  “Trust,” I told myself.  “Don’t ever stop trusting God.”  And three days later my son stood before me, risen from the dead!

Trust in God, trust in God’s goodness is what has sustained me in every circumstance in my life.  It will get me through these final days of my life as well.  That’s been the secret all along.  Trust.

When I think of Mary, I think of someone with a huge heart - a heart full of love for God and all God loves, a heart attuned to God’s voice, a heart prepared to take in and reflect on what it hears, a heart that ever trusts in God’s goodness.

On the threshold of this New Year, how would you describe the state of your heart?  Any changes you’d like to make?  Ask Mary to pray for you, because she’s already completed the faith journey we’re on today. 

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